Monday, September 28, 2015

Congressman Paul Cook Shows he's No Patriot & an Even Worse Policy Maker

In a recent newsletter from Congressman Cook, he brags about voting for HR 758, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2015.  He really should be ashamed of himself.

First, the law will bring from England its laws on who pays attorney fees in litigation (maybe Cook should run for the British Parliament, not Congress again!)--one which requires the loser to pay his or her own attorney AND the attorney of the side that wins. The American rule requires each side to bear their own attorney fees [absent some special statute or contractual provision]

Second, this bill is, like all of Cook's votes,  sided in favor of large corporations and companies. How? If we are going to shift to a system of loser paying attorney fees, we should make ALL parties who prevail on frivolous claims (including plaintiffs who defeat frivolous defenses) entitled to attorney fees ON TOP of whatever damages they get--HR 758 only gives defendants (typically large companies) attorney fees.

From the American Bar Association, a few more critical thoughts--It is a bad law for three reasons.

First the law was drafted in an empirical and historical vacuum WITHOUT the input of the judicial branch. The Rules Enabling Act was established by Congress to assure that amendment of Federal Rules occurs only after a comprehensive and balanced review of the problem and proposed solution is undertaken by the Judicial Conference of the United States. That review was not done.

Second, there is no demonstrated evidence that the existing sanction rule (called Rule 11) is inadequate and needs to be amended. Judges have all sorts of punitive tools in their arsenal

Third, by ignoring the lessons learned from ten (10) years of experience under 1983 mandatory version of Rule 11, Congress incurs the substantial risk that the proposed changes harm  litigants by encouraging additional litigation and increasing the court costs and delays. 
Paul Cook is a clueless another chapter in that book....his HR 758 vote.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oversight Reports for Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) Reports Overruns & Ongoing Problems Paul Cook's HR 832 Does Not Address

Veterans Benefits Management System overruns..... $579.2M to $1.3B & NOTHING COOK did by pushing for HR 832 will improve claim processing & benefits delivery!!

In February 2013, the VA could not provide reasonable assurance the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) would meet its goals of increasing claims processing accuracy to 98 percent and eliminating the disability claims backlog by 2015.
"Since September 2009, total estimated VBMS costs increased significantly from about $579.2 million to approximately $1.3 billion in January 2015. The increases appear due to inadequate cost control, unplanned changes in system and business requirements, and inefficient contracting practices".
The result?? "The VA could not ensure an effective return on its investment and total actual VBMS system development costs remained unknown.
"VBMS did not fully provide the capability to process claims from initial application to benefits delivery".
"Users lacked training needed to leverage the enhanced functionality provided. System response-time issues resulted from rapid software enhancements while system disruptions were due to inadequate service continuity practices. Until these issues are addressed, VA will continue to lack assurance of meeting its claims processing accuracy and backlog elimination goals by the end of 2015".
Paul Cook is clueless--in fact  the bill he touts as his solution [HR 832 which this blogger commented on June 11, 2015], does nothing to increase capability to process claim forms (just study the system) and does nothing to train the users to leverage the additional functionality already provided.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Paul Cook's Newsletter Misrepresents What HR 2898 is about--

The Congressional Budget Office says  []

1) H.R. 2898 would direct the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to convert water service contracts with water districts in 17 western states to repayment contracts if a contractor requests it. Water users that choose to convert their contracts would be required to accelerate repayment of their share of the capital costs of constructing the affected projects. Under the bill, existing repayment contractors would have the option to repay their share of capital costs on an accelerated schedule.
Based on information from the BOR, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would reduce direct spending by a total of $883 million over the 2016-2025 period. Under the bill, offsetting receipts, which are treated as reductions in direct spending, would increase by $721 million over the next 10 years from accelerated repayments (net of annual payments that would otherwise occur under current law).  Comment: No one is saying IF the water service contractors can afford this nor how much it will increase water costs or increase our water bills!
2) H.R. 2898 also would repeal the authority to implement the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act (SJRRSA) which CBO estimates would reduce federal costs by $162 million over the next several years. Comment: So the environmental policies passed into law to protect our fisheries and water supplies are getting repealed
3) Additionally, because the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) expects nonfederal contractors would finance accelerated payments with bonds exempt from federal taxation, they estimate that enacting the legislation would lead to a decrease in revenues of $89 million over the 2016-2025 period. COMMENT: Sounds good until you realize, the bill does not say from WHAT programs the money be taken nor does it say that there are bonds and a market for same!!

4) H.R. 2898 also would allow the BOR, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to respond to drought conditions in western states by authorizing appropriations for projects to store water and by accelerating reviews of permit applications and environmental studies for new water projects. The bill also would decrease amounts authorized to be appropriated by repealing the SJRRSA. Based on information from those agencies, and assuming the appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase discretionary spending by $398 million over the 2016-2020 period and by $784 million over the next ten years. COMMENT: Sounds good until you realize, the bill does not say from WHAT programs the money be taken!!
5) H.R. 2898 would impose intergovernmental mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by preempting the ability of the State of California to enforce its own water management and wildlife preservation laws. Comment: Cook uses federal law to wipe out control of intra-state water resources--so much for Californians right to govern!

Paul Cook's HR 3176 Vote Shows he doesn't talk with forestry resource people enough

On the forest legislation (HR 3176) I wrote to Paul Cook "aren't you passing more unnecessary legislation and ignoring the real problem--not enough officers and scientists in federal service to protect our natural assets. Passing more laws without trained people to enforce them is symbolic and a waste of paper (more trees). Our forests are dying from arsonists, yes....but the long term killers have been bark beetles (imported from foreign lumber products we did not adequately inspect for infection of because of budget cuts), midget mistle toe (from imported nursery stock and changing Ph in the soils from concrete-type wastes), fugitive dust caused by developers and grading to knock down weeds and fewer grazing animals (deer etc). We need policies that create a healthier forest. HR 3176 is not that".

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Paul Cook (CA-08) Gives Another Gift Tax Cut to the Wealthy in his Latest bill...shame, shame...what programs does he cut to make millionares wealthier??

American Soda Ash Competitiveness Act [HR 1992] sets at 2%, for a five-year period, the royalty rate on the quantity or gross value of the output of sodium compounds and related products at the point of shipment to market from federal land. The royalty rate on the quantity or gross value of the output of sodium compounds and related products is measured at the point of shipment to market from federal land. So Paul, where are you going to get the money to replace this tax cut? Another tax cut for the wealthy! Where is the study which says this will make them )hopefully American and not Canadian or Mexican Mining ventures) more competitive? If China is causing a squeeze, why isn't Cook urging the filing of a WTO complaint and imposing a tariff to protect American producers against unfair dumping? Fortunately, Cook's bill just came out of committee. I would love to see some people who know something about trading commodities look at this joke and kill it!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

HR 832 (Cook's first major bill) Commissions a Study but No Action Plan is Set Out.....

Directs the Secretary of Labor to enter into a contract with a non-governmental entity to conduct a longitudinal study of a statistically valid sample of each of the following groups of individuals over a period of at least five years: (1) veterans who have received intensive job counseling, training, and placement services; (2) veterans who did not receive intensive services but who otherwise received services; and (3) veterans who did not seek or receive services.
Requires the study to include the collection of specified information for each individual who participates in the study, including:
  • the average number of months served on active duty,
  • the distribution of disability ratings,
  • unemployment benefits received,
  • the average number of months employed and average individual and household annual income,
  • employment status,
  • whether the individual believes that any service received helped the individual to become employed,
  • use of educational assistance,
  • participation in a vocational rehabilitation program,
  • conditions of discharge or release from the Armed Forces, and
  • demographic information.
Directs the Secretary to submit annual reports on the outcomes of the study that include any information the Secretary determines is necessary to determine long-term outcomes of the individuals in such groups.
You can see the text of the bill at: